The book “Utopia” is what would be termed a novella today standing at just about 85 physical pages or shy of 4 hours and 20 minutes in audiobook format. The piece was authored by Sir Thomas More in 1516 (over five-hundred years ago) and it is the reason we equate a society that lives in complete peace and harmony as a “utopia”. The book’s audio narration for this edition was performed by Douglas McDonald. Even though this is a translated work originally written in Latin over half-a-millennia ago, it still stands as a great piece of fiction and interesting study into what a utopia looks like for someone of that period, which is surprisingly not that different from what one expects today. I understand the book is recommended reading for many college students who are involved in philosophy, sociology, or other human studies. However, you do not need to be involved in these sciences to enjoy the book and see how little mankind has changed in their ways. It is rather short and well worth reading or listening to at least once during your life time. I do not think you will be disappointed if you do.
It is quite scary that a book this old feels almost like a modern day “1984” or “V for Vendetta” movie script. The story is told from the point of an explorer telling his sovereign (King) about a place he experienced called Utopia. The book proceeds thought various aspects relating to the utopian society and how the inhabitants of Utopia accomplish them: work, play, religion, government, and even war is all discussed. Even with the age of the book, the society portrayed was more what would expect from Star Trek. There were freely available medical facilities, multiple cities one could live in on the island, both work and entertainment would have a purpose and not be frivolous in nature. Wealth or status has been removed from the individual. What we call valuable today (gold, silver, pearls, etc.) were used to adorn slaves, used for privy pots, or molded into objects very young children would play with before maturing.
The people living in Utopia were seeking to find the perfect balance of religion, royalty, and philosophy. The island had well-defined rules and regulations along with outlined punishments for those breaking them. The society was overall moral in its beliefs with a very strong bent towards what could best be described as socialism today. If you read the words from John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, you get a good idea of what the Utopia laid out by Sir More was like; however, this one had religion. All things were shared and what one did was always for the greater good of the society as a whole. There were also well-defined roles and responsibilities for the various genders and ages. Any form of idleness was see as harmful to the society and quickly addressed.
Slavery was also something seen on the island of Utopia. This may surprise many, yet the slavery mentioned here was quite different then that imagined by someone growing up in the Western world. Slavery, like for the early Greeks and Romans, was more a way of having a better life then one would have on the streets in poverty. Owners of slaves were often kind and provided for their slaves to a point that some would indenture themselves to lifetime service of their masters. This was a willing slavery or service that was welcomed and encouraged to help the poor or needy.
Regarding the book’s audio narration, I felt Douglas McDonald did a good job of narrating this piece of classic literature. The audio itself was clean and consistent. I did not notice any patches or edits to the book. There were a few times while listening that I was able to hear the narrator swallow, but this was not constant nor did it take away from enjoying the book. If I had one request, it would have been for the story to have been read with more inflection. I understand this work being as old as it is may make it more difficult, however I would have liked to have had more variation in the narration. There were a few parts where slight inflection came to the forefront, but it was rare enough that when they happened it was noticeable; and I wanted more.
In summary, I recommended everyone read or listen to this book at least once. If you have not done so already, pick up a copy and you will be surprised how much you may enjoy this tale. In many ways, I’m surprised the author was not executed for writing what would have been thought as heretical, yet his philosophy and beliefs later caught up with him when he was executed for being disobedient to the ruling king.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.